Athens Portraits [3]: Angling for business

more than a year ago

He’s lying in wait for you as you amble down the streets of Plaka. Lurking behind the colourful displays of souvenirs in the countless tourist shops or basking in the shadows of the many cafeterias and tavernas, he’s just waiting for you to slow your pace so he can pounce on you with a friendly smile and an eager “Yes pliz”.
He’s that epitome of Greek small businessmen, the tourist tout. And he’s not one to let a possible sale get away without giving it his very best.
His natural habitat is in the back of his shop – usually a narrow establishment crammed with a crazy collection of mass produced ceramic copies of ancient urns, ‘genuine’ Greek worry beads and backgammon sets, and all manner of Brand-Hellas produce – but the moment he spies movement on the street outside, he’s out there at the speed of Hermes to engage his prey.
Maybe he’s an old-timer or one of the younger generation of chancers that see their future coming from the pockets of the tourists that flock to Athens every year. But one thing they all have in common is an unshakable faith in the power of personal engagement. Getting a conversation going is key to making a sale – so they happily use their native Greek love of chat as a powerful marketing tool. Your casual “just looking” will only result in him launching into a narrative about the ‘superior’ souvenirs he sells or silent hovering a metre or so behind your shoulder until you break down and buy something.


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